‘Fisheries Harbour Corp funds used for election
Presidential Commission to expose mega frauds
Government funds may have been used to organize a public rally in
support of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s presidential bid in
December last year, according to evidence now being led at the hearings
of the Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Large Scale
Corruption and Fraud, which began hearings in Colombo, last Thursday
morning. No proper procedure seems to have been followed in these
dealings, according to testimony.
With over 600 complaints received of massive fraud, the Special
Presidential Commission probe is expected to expose a number of corrupt
politicians and public officials. Already, in its first day of hearings,
the Commission took up a series of transactions reported as ‘corrupt’ in
which the government’s Procurement Guidelines have been breached. The
Special Presidential Commission was appointed by President Maithripala
Sirisena in March 2015.
The first case heard by the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) was on the
embezzlement of public funds in the Ceylon Fisheries Harbour Corporation
(CFHC) during late December 2014. The evidence was led before High Court
Judges Padman Surasena, Amendra Seneviratna, Vikum Kaluarachchi, Gihan
Kulatunga and former Auditor General B.A. Premathilake. Senior State
Counsel Sudarshana de Silva and State Counsel Sagara Kariyawasam
represented the Attorney General. The accused were represented by
Attorney-at-Law Sampath Mendis.
The allegation was that state funds had been used to install a plaque
at a cost of almost Rs. 1.84 million for a project to develop the
Negombo Lagoon. The evidence presented before the Commission during
Thursday’s hearings indicated that state assets had probably been
misused with the knowledge of CFHC officials. The Commission is also
investigating whether Government funds had been used to organise a
public rally for former President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Negombo
Municipal Council playground on December 30, 2014.
According to the evidence given by the Negombo Mayor Antony Jayaweera,
the rally was organised by the Negombo Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP)
organiser and former Deputy Minister Sarath Kumara Gunaratne. Many high
profile SLFP Ministers, Deputy Ministers and parliamentarians were
present at the rally.
Acting Supplies Manager, CFHC Lakmina Munidasa, questioned by Senior
Counsel Kariyawasam, told the Commission that the construction work on
the plaque was awarded to a contractor who was selected from the list of
names sent by the General Manager in an open letter without calling for
The advance payment was over 50 percent of the total payment despite
the fact that the Government Procurement Guidelines authorised only a 20
percent advance payment.
It was revealed that the General Manager had authorised the payment
and the then Chairman had approved the advance payment on December 19,
According to official records presented as evidence, the Procurement
Committee had met to evaluate the quotations on January 7, 2015.
The award of contracts to organise the rally, print diaries, T shirts
and caps, and the payments made, had all violated the Government
Procurement Guidelines, according to the evidence given by the Acting
Supplies Manager and the two contractors.
The public hearing was on the Rs. 5 million paid for the event
organised and another Rs. 1.25 million paid to print T shirts and caps,
with logos promoting the former President and, the printing of 2,000
diaries for 2015 at a cost of around Rs. 1.09 million. Attorney-at-Law
Darshana Mendis, appearing on behalf of the former Deputy Minister,
former Chairman, General Manager, Private Secretary and Coordinating
Secretary of the former Deputy Minister said the hurried notice for his
client did not give sufficient time to prepare for the hearing.
They had continuously called for another date although the hearing
was scheduled only for two days. The Commission of Inquiry fixed the
next public hearing on August 20, 21, 24 and 25 at the BMICH.